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Drury Lane tops 2020 Equity Jeff Award honorees

Recipients of the awards, which honor excellence in Chicago’s Equity theater productions, were announced Monday night in a virtual ceremony.

Leigh-Ann Esty and Josh Drake star in “An American in Paris” at the Drury Lane Theatre.
Leigh-Ann Esty and Josh Drake star in “An American in Paris” at the Drury Lane Theatre.
Brett Beiner Photography

It’s been a year unlike any other for the world and, in this instance, the theater community, which saw the shutdown of Broadway and regional theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But even after an abbreviated season, the 2020 Equity Jeff Awards were handed out Monday night in a virtual ceremony, honoring 39 recipients across 30 artistic and technical categories.

Chicago actor Michelle Lauto hosted the online awards announcement, which can be accessed for free at https://bit.ly/JeffAwards.

Topping the list of award recipients this year was Drury Lane Productions, with five awards going to “An American in Paris,” including best production musical (large) and choreography. The company’s production of “The Color Purple” earned three awards, including best director musical honors for Lili-Anne Brown.

Windy City Playhouse followed with five awards, four of them for “The Boys in the Band,” including best midsize production and best director Carl Menninger, and one for “Every Brilliant Thing,” followed by Steppenwolf Theatre Company with four awards overall, including three for “Bug” and one for best original music in a play for Ladysmith Black Mambazo: “Lindiwe.”

Court Theatre’s production of “King Hedley II” earned best production of a play (large) honors and best performance in a principal role for Kelvin Rostin Jr. and best performance in a supporting role for A.C. Smith. Porchlight Music Theatre earned three awards for “Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies” with honors including best ensemble musical, musical direction by Jermaine Hill, and best performer in a revue Lorenzo Rush Jr.

Steppenwolf’s “Bug” honors included performer in a principal role for Carrie Coon, and technical awards for scenic and lighting design. Wardell Julius Clark was named best director of a play (large) for “Kill Move Paradise” at TimeLine Theatre Company.

The now-shuttered Mercury Theater Company took home two awards for “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” for best production musical (midsize) and best director musical (midsize) L. Walter Stearns.

The traditional Equity season runs Aug. 1 through July 31, but ended March 13 this year due to the pandemic.

The 2020 Equity award recipients are:

Production – Play (Large)

• “King Hedley II” - Court Theatre

Production – Play (Midsize)

• “The Boys in the Band” - Windy City Playhouse

Production – Musical or Revue (Large)

• “An American in Paris” - Drury Lane Productions

Production – Musical or Revue (Midsize)

• “Monty Python’s Spamalot” - Mercury Theater Chicago

Ensemble – Play

  • “The Boys in the Band” - Windy City Playhouse
  • “The Leopard Play, or Sad Songs for Lost Boys” – Steep Theatre Company

Ensemble – Musical or Revue

• “Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies” - Porchlight Music Theatre

New Work

  • Lee Edward Colston II - “The First Deep Breath” - Victory Gardens Theater
  • Levi Holloway - “Grey House” - A Red Orchid Theatre
  • Loy A. Webb - “His Shadow: A Parable” - 16th Street Theater

Director – Play (Large)

• Wardell Julius Clark - “Kill Move Paradise” - TimeLine Theatre Company

Director – Play (Midsize)

• Carl Menninger - “The Boys in the Band” - Windy City Playhouse

Director – Musical or Revue (Large)

• Lili-Anne Brown - “The Color Purple” - Drury Lane Productions

Director – Musical or Revue (Midsize)

• L. Walter Stearns - “Monty Python’s Spamalot” - Mercury Theater Chicago

Performer in a Principal Role – Play

  • Carrie Coon (Agnes White) - “Bug” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
  • Kelvin Roston Jr. (Hedley) - “King Hedley II” - Court Theatre

Performer in a Principal Role – Musical

  • Josh Drake (Jerry Mulligan) - “An American in Paris” - Drury Lane Productions
  • Eben K. Logan (Celie) - “The Color Purple” - Drury Lane Productions

Solo Performance

• Rebecca Spence (Narrator) - “Every Brilliant Thing” - Windy City Playhouse

Performer in a Revue

• Lorenzo Rush Jr. (The Raconteur) - “Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies” - Porchlight Music Theatre

Performer in a Supporting Role – Play

  • Deanna Reed-Foster (Pearl Thomas) - “The First Deep Breath” - Victory Gardens Theater
  • A.C. Smith (Elmore) - “King Hedley II” - Court Theatre

Performer in a Supporting Role – Musical

  • Skyler Adams (Adam Hochberg) - “An American in Paris” - Drury Lane Productions
  • Nicole Michelle Haskins (Sofia) - “The Color Purple” - Drury Lane Productions

Scenic Design - Large

• Takeshi Kata - “Bug” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Scenic Design - Midsize

  • William Boles - “The Boys in the Band” - Windy City Playhouse
  • Joe Schermoly - “The Gulf” - About Face Theatre

Costume Design - Large

• Theresa Ham - “Beauty and the Beast” - Paramount Theatre

Costume Design - Midsize

• Kristy Leigh Hall - “Howards End” - Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

Sound Design - Large

• Mikhail Fiksel - “Dana H.” - Goodman Theatre

Sound Design - Midsize

• Jeffrey Levin - “Grey House” - A Red Orchid Theatre

Lighting Design - Large

• Heather Gilbert - “Bug” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Lighting Design - Midsize

• Mike Durst - “Grey House” - A Red Orchid Theatre

Choreography

• Lynne Kurdziel-Formato - “An American in Paris” - Drury Lane Productions

Original Music in a Play

• Ladysmith Black Mambazo - “Lindiwe” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Musical Direction

• Jermaine Hill - “Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies” - Porchlight Music Theatre

Projection Design

• Kevan Loney - “An American in Paris” - Drury Lane Productions

Artistic Specialization

  • Breon Arzell (Movement Choreographer) - “Kill Move Paradise” - TimeLine Theatre Company
  • Steve Cuiffo (Illusion and Lip Sync Consultant) - “Dana H.” - Goodman Theatre